Breaking News? The Future of UK Journalism Contents

Chapter 3: Journalism as a career


110.According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2019 81,000 people in the UK worked as a journalist or newspaper or periodical editor. Table 1 shows the number of journalists by employment type. As discussed in Chapter 1, the COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to significant numbers of redundancies in journalism, which are not reflected in the latest figures.

Table 1: Number of journalists by employment type





































* Data unavailable.

Source: Office for National Statistics, Labour Force Survey: [accessed 23 November 2020]

111.Table 2 provides a breakdown of the percentage of journalists working in each sector.

Table 2: Percentage breakdown of journalists working in each area









Regional/local newspapers




National newspapers








Business magazines




Consumer/leisure magazines




Other magazines








Regional/local radio




National radio








National TV




Regional TV




Cable/satellite TV












Independent production company








Public relations and corporate communications








* Data unavailable.

Source: National Council for the Training of Journalists, Journalists at Work (October 2018) p 17: [accessed 23 November 2020]

112.Our Committee has long been interested in the diversity of the industries within our remit. Most recently, we discussed diversity and representation in UK Advertising in a Digital Age and Public Service Broadcasting: as Vital as Ever.194

113.Several witnesses in our inquiry explained why diversity is particularly important in newsrooms. For example, Barnie Choudhury, Professor of Professional Practice in Communications at the University of Buckingham, suggested that certain controversies about coverage of race in the media could have been avoided if the newsrooms concerned were more diverse.195 Michelle Stanistreet explained: “Diversity is important to any organisation, or should be, but when it comes to journalism it has a particular impact. We are supposed to be holding up a mirror to the communities that journalists serve. It means that we are missing out on a lot of diversity of thought, lived experience and, frankly, talent that is going untapped”.196

114.Julie Etchingham, a broadcaster for ITV, agreed: “If you do not have sufficient diversity of thought in a newsroom, by definition you are not really understanding the whole range of opinions and perspectives that are out there… The more voices that we can draw on around an editorial table, the better informed we are then to make an impartial and objective judgment on how to proceed on a story.”197

115.Having a range of religious and philosophical perspectives can be an important element of this. Ms Etchingham cited her experience of covering debates about euthanasia as an example.198

116.Asif Sadiq MBE and Sir Robbie Gibb argued that ‘diversity of thought’ was too often overlooked.199 Sir Robbie suggested that this had led to broadcasters “completely misreading the country”. PressPad and Mr Sadiq thought it important for newsrooms to have a culture in which ‘diversity of thought’ is encouraged.200

117.The BBC has received particular scrutiny on this issue. John Humphrys, a former BBC journalist, has argued that there is “a form of institutional liberal bias”, driven by hiring predominantly middle-class university graduates, which leads to a “groupthink mentality”.201 Roger Mosey, former Head of BBC Television News, has expressed concern that the BBC “appears to be narrowing its range of thought and edging towards groupthink.”202

118.David Jordan, Director of Editorial Policy and Standards at the BBC, agreed that having ‘diversity of thought’ was important and said: “Have we always been successful in doing that? No, candidly, we have not. I know I am not the first person from the BBC to say this; the former director-general, Mark Thompson, has said something similar. We had issues about, for example, tracking the rise of Euro-scepticism … across the BBC, did we do that adequately? No, we did not. Did we have issues tracking the growth of concern about immigration? I think that we as an organisation did have that.”203

119.In October 2019, June Sarpong was appointed as the BBC’s Director of Creative Diversity, aiming “to make the BBC more inclusive and representative of the broad and diverse audience it serves.”204 Ms Sarpong has warned that the BBC has had “serious issues” connecting with working class audiences.205

120.The Government suggested in its response to the Cairncross Review that:

“improving the diversity of newsrooms could also have a positive impact on the sustainability of the industry by helping news publishers improve their appeal to currently underserved and under-represented audiences. Through diversity of perspectives, this could in turn lead to an increase in readership and associated revenues.”206

121.Many news organisations have schemes to improve the diversity of their organisation.207 However, there is a lack of data on diversity apart from surveys of the whole industry. Except for broadcasters, news organisations are under no obligation to report on the diversity of their workforce.

122.Industry-wide statistics suggest some disparities. Although 55 per cent of journalists are male, broadly in line with the 53 per cent male UK workforce, women are more represented in younger than older cohorts: 16 per cent of female journalists are aged under 25 compared with 13 per cent of men, while 40 per cent of male journalists are aged 40 and over compared with 25 per cent of women.208 In January 2015 the Committee raised concerns about the profile of women on TV news in a report on Women in News and Current Affairs Broadcasting.209

123.In 2018, the ONS found that 10 per cent of journalists had a disability or health problem, compared with 13 per cent of the workforce, and that 10 per cent were from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, compared with 12 per cent of the workforce.210 We are acutely aware of the importance of language and its evolution. We recognise that the acronym ‘BAME’ conflates the vastly different life experiences of millions of people from many different cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds. We only use the term in this report in order to produce headline data in line with existing comparative data sets and in quoting evidence from our witnesses.

124.Analysis by the NCTJ in 2017 showed that journalism graduates with a disability were less likely to be in work as a journalist six months after graduation than those without (by 22 per cent to 26 per cent), and black journalism graduates less likely than white or Asian graduates (by 8 per cent to 26 per cent and 33 per cent respectively).211

125.Diversity is not limited to the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010. For example, socio-economic diversity is a key issue. The 2018 ONS Labour Force survey found that 72 per cent of journalists have a parent who worked in one of the three ‘higher-level’ occupations compared with 41 per cent of the UK workforce. Six per cent of journalists have parents from the lowest two social classes compared with 22 per cent of the UK workforce.212 The NCTJ found that journalism graduates who went to a state-funded school were less likely to work in journalism than their independently educated peers by 17 per cent to 25 per cent.213

126.It is also important for news organisations to hire people from a geographical range of backgrounds. For example, David Jordan, Director of Editorial Policy and Standards at the BBC, told us:

“we have a very dispersed set of journalists across the UK, more dispersed than any other organisation in the UK, given our regional newsrooms, our local journalism and our journalism in each of the nations, and we make use of that. We ensure that the backgrounds of the people who come into our newsroom are varied.”214

127.PressPad, a social enterprise which works to improve diversity in the media, and Mr Sadiq explained that data does not show whether people have more than one under-represented characteristic. Both noted that people who have an under-represented characteristic are often also from a less-advantaged socio-economic background.215

128.We also heard concerns about retention and progression in news organisations, about which there is also a lack of data. Mr Choudhury noted “in the history of journalism in the newspaper industry in the UK, we have had one BAME national newspaper editor”, a statistic which he described as “horrific”. He told us: “Structural, systemic and institutional racism exist in journalism.”216

129.Mr Sadiq suggested “a charter that all media organisations would have to sign up to that would ensure that they have to work towards diversity and inclusion and report yearly on their progress. This would create healthy competition and also transparency, which would support diversity and inclusion efforts.”217 Mr Choudhury made a similar suggestion and argued that data on retention and promotion should be included.218

130.Under the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom has a responsibility to monitor the diversity of staff of UK broadcasters in terms of gender, racial group and disability. The Act gives the Secretary of State power by order to add any other form of equality of opportunity to this list.219

131.Kevin Bakhurst, Group Director, Content and Media Policy at Ofcom, told us in July 2019 during our inquiry into public service broadcasting that Ofcom would like the list of characteristics to be extended:

“We have the powers to get the figures for three protected characteristics [gender, racial group and disability]. We do not have the powers to force broadcasters to give us figures for the other characteristics. We have written to the Secretary of State twice to ask for those powers. Do we need more powers in that area? Yes, we do, and we have asked about it. It would be great if we got an answer.”220

132.The Government is not minded to grant Ofcom’s request. The Rt Hon. John Whittingdale MP, Minister for Media and Data, told us:

“I would be reluctant to legislate to give Ofcom more powers to require information to be supplied. Particularly given the economic difficulties the industry is already in, imposing greater burdens on it is something that I am reluctant to do. However, the broadcasters already record a lot of this and supply that information, and they could well do more.”221

133.In 2019, for the first time Ofcom asked broadcasters on a voluntary basis for data on socio-economic background. Ofcom received data for only 30 per cent of employees.222 Data for age, sexual orientation and religion were more complete, covering 88 per cent, 65 per cent and 59 per cent of UK TV employees respectively.223

134.We noted in Public Service Broadcasting: as Vital as Ever that many programmes—including 48 per cent of public service broadcasters’ output—are made by independent production companies. These companies are under no requirement to provide data to Ofcom. We recommended that Ofcom should be empowered to collect data on the diversity of independent production companies’ crews when they are making programmes for a public service broadcaster.224

135.Many witnesses suggested that internships are a barrier to people from less-advantaged socio-economic backgrounds entering journalism. The NCTJ found that 87 per cent of journalists had done work experience before going into the profession, for an average of eight weeks. Only six per cent were paid, while 21 per cent received expenses and 74 per cent were unpaid.225 The Sutton Trust estimates that it costs a young person at least £1,000 to do a month of unpaid work experience in London.226 The profession is highly London-centric: 52 per cent of journalists are employed in London, compared with 16 per cent of employees across the whole economy.227

136.Sir Robbie argued that the presence of socio-economic barriers to work experience was “one of the key areas” to address to improve diversity in journalism. He said: “work experience requires not being paid, generally speaking, which means it is for people who live in London and the south-east, who have wealthy parents who can support their kids after university and who can live at home.”228

137.PressPad said that job applicants are increasingly expected to have completed up to five internships, and noted: “the onus is on interns to report not being paid, not on the organisations to make clear to interns what their rights are, which include the right to per diem travel and food expenses. This money should be made available up front and not compensated in retrospect as this bars those who do not have money in their pocket to pay in the first place”.229

138.In addition, there are non-financial barriers to aspiring journalists gaining work experience. For example, Mr Sadiq told us that getting work experience can require sending a speculative email—which some do not know, particularly those from less privileged backgrounds.230 He also criticised employers who look for a ‘mini-me’, expecting applicants to have skills and experiences which match their own even if those attributes are not essential; this can further disadvantage applicants from under-represented backgrounds, who are less likely to have acquired those skills or experiences.231

139.PressPad described journalism as “a network industry, where you hire people you know.”232 Fraser Nelson, Editor of The Spectator, agreed:

“In many ways, journalism is a favour-trading environment, so people could do a favour for their contacts by taking their son or daughter into a placement. It does not cost the company anything. There is a culture of informal internships, which I think makes the industry far less accessible to those with aptitude and ability, but no contacts, who would like to break in.”233

140.Mr Nelson explained that The Spectator has a unique approach to hiring interns. Instead of providing a CV, applicants complete a test. Recent tasks have included finding two factual errors in a newspaper op-ed, suggesting topics and guests for a podcast, and condensing one of Dominic Cummings’ blog posts into 500 words.234

141.Recent Spectator interns have included Katherine Forster, a mother of three with no experience in journalism who went on to work at The Sunday Times; Ben Gartside, who left school with two Es at A Level and went on to work at The Daily Telegraph; and Cindy Yu, a former Lidl store manager who went on to become The Spectator’s Broadcast Editor.235 Interns are paid and offered help finding accommodation. PressPad commended the scheme.236 ‘No CV’ schemes have also been used in other industries.237

142.However, socio-economic barriers persist even once aspiring journalists have gained the expected qualifications and work experience. Mr Nelson noted: “As the fortunes of the industry have declined, salaries have gone down. That means that people who are not from a rich background, who want to do good in the world, perhaps cannot afford to live in London on £22,000 a year.”238

143.Equality of opportunity to enter journalism is not only a question of fairness: it is also crucial for their output that newsrooms benefit from a diversity of views and perspectives. This should be a natural result of different backgrounds and life experiences being represented in the newsroom, so long as newsrooms create and maintain a pluralistic culture.

144.We have heard that news organisations increasingly expect applicants to have completed several internships, limiting the socio-economic diversity of potential applicants. Although not a complete solution, creative approaches to recruiting interns can help level the playing-field and limit the effects of unconscious bias. It is also crucial that interns are paid. We encourage the industry to draw up a diversity charter, including the following commitments:

145.We recommend that the Government should grant Ofcom’s request to extend its power to oblige broadcasters to report on the gender, race and disability of their staff to other characteristics. Socio-economic background should be one of the characteristics. We reiterate our recommendation in ‘Public Service Broadcasting: as Vital as Ever’ that, as 48 per cent of public service broadcasters’ programmes—including news and current affairs programmes—are made by independent production companies, Ofcom should have the same powers to report on crews making programmes for public service broadcasters whether they are in-house or independent.

Educational background of journalists

146.A 2016 survey by Thurman, Cornia, and Kunert found that 86 per cent of UK journalists had at least a Bachelor’s degree.239 This was in line with NCTJ and the ONS Labour Force survey data from 2018, which respectively found that 82 and 87 per cent of journalists were educated to degree level, compared with 43 per cent of all those in employment in the UK across sectors.240

147.In England between 2006 and 2018 the rate of participation in higher education among 17–30 year-olds rose from 41.8 per cent to 50.2 per cent.241 Yet Thurman, Cornia, and Kunert found that 98 per cent of journalists in the first three years of their career had a university degree and 38 per cent also had a postgraduate qualification.242 This is consistent with the NCTJ’s finding that 95 per cent of journalists aged 25–29 have a university degree.243 The NCTJ also found that journalism postgraduate students tend to be younger than other postgraduates.244 This supports anecdotal evidence that a Master’s in journalism are increasingly desired by employers.245

148.Thurman, Cornia, and Kunert concluded: “journalism has become fully academised. Given the increasing costs of university education in the UK, especially when that education may include a master’s degree, and given the competitiveness of university entry, questions need to be asked about the socio-economic diversity of future generations of UK journalists.”246

149.Recruiting 98 per cent of early-career journalists from the 50 per cent of young people who go to university disproportionately disadvantages groups which are under-represented among graduates. For example, in 2018, 26 per cent of pupils eligible for free school meals in England had entered higher education by the age of 19, compared with 45 per cent of those not eligible for free meals.247 There is also significant variation in participation in higher education by gender and ethnicity. These disparities intersect: 13 per cent of white British boys on free school meals progress to higher education, compared with 79 per cent of Chinese girls.248

150.Julie Etchingham, a broadcaster for ITV News, told us:

“in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you really got the sense that this was a graduate profession. By that stage, most people had been drawn in from universities. Inevitably, because of the backdrop of society, that meant that diversity was not as it should have been in its connection to and understanding of the communities that it was serving.”

She added that some senior colleagues had entered journalism through non-degree routes and argued: “We have to find our way back to those pathways.”249

151.The number of full-time, first-year journalism undergraduates who enrolled at UK universities increased from 415 in 1994–95 to 3,625 in 2015–16.250 In 2018–19, 4,900 students began a degree in journalism: 3,050 as an undergraduate and 1,850 as a postgraduate.251 The NCTJ found that although 83 per cent of journalism students were in work six months after graduation only 26 per cent worked as a journalist.252 This was despite 75 per cent of first-year students considering themselves sure or likely to try to pursue a career in journalism.253

152.Some witnesses thought that journalism is, as David Dinsmore, Chief Operating Officer of News UK put it, “one of those jobs that you learn on the job”. He argued: “you do not need a piece of paper to be a successful journalist. I would encourage people to try to get in by direct entry.”254

153.Peter Wright, Editor Emeritus of DMG Media, explained one of the reasons for the growth in university training and its effect:

“We discovered about 20 years ago that local papers were all shutting down their training schemes and we were no longer getting young journalists coming through that route. Young journalists, particularly those who went on to apprentice schemes straight out of school, were by definition generally from poorer backgrounds; they were not metropolitan, sophisticated people. Universities then began to open journalism departments. In order to go through university journalism training and get experience to be in a position where you can apply for a job at a national newspaper, you must have quite a lot of funding behind you.”255

154.Anna Codrea-Rado, a freelance journalist, argued: “When we rely on university degrees to plug that training gap … we just have much of the same types of people from the same background … That is a huge problem on the diversity front.”256 Rossalyn Warren, a freelance journalist, and Jimmy Buckland, Director of Strategy at Wireless Group, believed that a university degree should not be a prerequisite and that the reliance on universities to train journalists had a negative effect on diversity and representation.257

155.Similarly, Ms Stanistreet told us: “It should not be a normalised requirement that new entrants have to fund costly degrees, postgraduate courses in most cases, and then maybe still have to rely on the bank of mum and dad to prop them up in the early stages of their career”.258

156.Many witnesses told us that apprenticeships could provide a viable alternative route into journalism.259 This is typified by the argument made by Anna Codrea-Rado, a freelance journalist: “Apprenticeships seem like the way forward, because you get the on-the job training. It is an actual job; it is not an internship and you are being paid. It just opens up that access to so many more people from so many more backgrounds.”260

157.Although some enter journalism through an apprenticeship, this route is limited. In 2019, 170 people began studying for the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism as part of an apprenticeship.261 This figure may include university graduates.262 Government data show that the number of people starting a journalism apprenticeship using the Apprenticeship Levy scheme was 88 in 2017–18 and 73 in 2018–19.263 The Independent and Evening Standard, the BBC, ITN and Sky are among the news organisations which offer apprenticeships.264 Jamie Angus, Director of the BBC World Service, noted that 31 per cent of the BBC’s apprentices were from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds and hoped that the scheme would continue to be able to recruit substantial numbers of people to the organisation.265

158.The Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in April 2017 and applies to businesses with an annual pay bill over £3 million at a rate of 0.5 per cent. It is used to fund training for apprentices both from these and smaller businesses. Smaller businesses can draw on levy funds if they pay 5 per cent of their apprentice’s training costs, as well as their wages. Levy payers are able to transfer up to 25 per cent of their funds to other employers.266

159.In the two years following the Levy’s introduction the average number of people starting an apprenticeship across all sectors was 31 per cent lower than in the two years prior to the Levy’s introduction.267 The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) concluded: “Without urgent action, the Apprenticeship Levy risks becoming a roadblock to the Government’s wider and welcome efforts to modernise the skills system.”268

160.We first noted concerns about the Apprenticeship Levy in our report on the theatre industry in 2017.269 In UK Advertising in a Digital Age in 2018 we concluded: “the Government’s apprenticeship scheme is not appropriate for the advertising industry or the wider creative sector.”270

161.Most recently, in our report on public service broadcasting in November 2019, we concluded:

“The Apprenticeship Levy has failed the creative industries. Its inflexibility leaves significant amounts of money unspent which could otherwise help to address skills shortages in the production sector … The Government should introduce greater flexibility such as allowing businesses to use the levy to fund training programmes at work and apprentices’ wages, and to pool vouchers through training agencies.”271

162.Other committees have also criticised the scheme. The Intergenerational Fairness Committee concluded: “The apprenticeship system is confused. It is not adequately serving young people or apprentices retraining later in life.”272 The Artificial Intelligence Committee found that some technology companies had considerable difficulty using the levy.273

163.We encountered similar dissatisfaction with the levy in this inquiry. David Dinsmore, Chief Operating Officer of News UK, told us: “We have an apprentice scheme that runs on The Sun. Interestingly, we cannot use the apprenticeship levy; it is more worth our while to pay it and run the apprenticeship scheme on top, so it is not really fit for purpose for us.”274

164.ITN argued: “the apprenticeship system is flawed and needs urgent policy review to make it work for all parts of the economy. For many in the creative industries, as in journalism, we are not able to make optimal use of the apprentice system to deliver apprenticeships in the volume we would like.”275

165.Ms Mallett of ITN explained: “One of the barriers that we have found to bringing in people of different backgrounds from across the UK is the cost of accommodation. If we could use some of the levy to help with that, it would have a huge impact. While we support the ambition of the levy, we need a bit more flexibility, given that we know the dynamics of our newsrooms and our organisation and how we can progress people by using it in slightly different ways.”276

166.Will Gore, Head of Partnerships and Projects at the National Council for the Training of Journalists, made a similar point:

“The difficulty that employers have had with apprenticeships is funding. At the moment, they can use their apprenticeship levy to pay for the training element, but they cannot use it to pay for salaries. In fact, there is a significant cost to employers to take on apprentices if they are paying their apprentices as they should be. That has been off-putting for some.”277

167.Jamie Angus said that the BBC was concerned that the Apprenticeship Levy can be used to fund graduates.278 This concern was also raised by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee in 2018.279

168.In June 2020 the Prime Minister said he believed that every young person should be guaranteed an apprenticeship.280 In a letter to us in October 2020, he added: “We are now working to bring together a range of employers and stakeholders from the creative industries to explore how the sector can make greater use of apprenticeships, including how we could do more to recognise the flexible models of employment prevalent in the industry.” The Prime Minister explained that one such measure is that the Government plans to make it easier for apprentices to move between businesses.281

169.Mr Whittingdale told us: “The Apprenticeship Levy is a good idea in principle, but of course there may be ways in which it could be improved.” He added:

“I would like to see more apprenticeships. There are some very distinguished journalists who have not been to university, and there is nothing like on-the-job training in that respect. I am happy to talk to my colleagues at the [Department for Education] about ways in which we could improve the scheme”.282

170.Will Harding, Chief Strategy Officer at Global Media and Entertainment, noted: “there are only so many apprenticeships small organisations can provide, so I would like to see a much more joined-up strategy, across government, education, the industry—and not just in radio, I mean in the whole of media—to develop these skills.”283

171.Similarly, News UK and Mr Jermey of ITV raised the possibility of a more collaborative approach to apprenticeships. Mr Jermey suggested: “Training should not be a competitive area; it should be an area where we add to the industry … If there is a better way of organising some of those things, we would be very open to those sorts of discussions.”284

172.Going to university can be a valuable route into journalism. However, it has become almost the only route. As many local news organisations’ training schemes have been cancelled, the industry has increasingly relied on universities to train journalists. The requirement for a Bachelor’s degree and increasing desirability of a Master’s degree limits the diversity of backgrounds and experiences of members of the profession.

173.As in our reports on the theatre industry, the advertising industry and public service broadcasting, we have again found that the Apprenticeship Levy is failing young people who would like to work in the media or creative industries.

174.We reiterate our call for urgent reform to allow the pooling of funds to create training agencies and to allow a portion of Levy funds to be spent on apprentices’ wages or other expenses associated with employing them. The Government’s failure to act has cost young people and the industry. If, despite its professed commitment to apprenticeships, the Government still will not reform the Levy, it should provide—in parallel—arm’s-length funding for news organisations to take on apprentices, which they could pool to set up a training agency. Local news organisations should receive priority for any such funding.

Freelance journalists

175.As outlined above, according to the ONS, in 2019 81,000 people in the UK worked as a journalist or newspaper or periodical editor. Of these 33,700 (42 per cent) were self-employed.285

176.A 2016 survey by the NCTJ found that 17 per cent had been pushed into self-employment solely because available employment opportunities were not attractive, with 44 per cent saying that they had been ‘pulled’ into self-employment because of its attractiveness. Thirty-nine per cent believed it was a mixture of both. However, 82 per cent were not seeking to leave freelancing.286

177.As mentioned in Chapter 1, the COVID-19 pandemic generated many redundancies. The extent to which there will be new jobs in the industry as the economy recovers remains to be seen. In the meantime, many are likely to have been pushed into freelancing. The Society of Freelance Journalists stated: “The print industry itself is in sharp decline and many titles are suspending publication due to the impact of COVID-19. Freelancing as a result is an increasingly competitive market. Many former staff journalists have turned to it after being furloughed or made redundant in recent months.”287

178.Freelancing can bring what Rossalyn Warren called “incredible” benefits. She told us:

“I work with Tortoise at the moment, with The Guardian and outlets that allow me to work on longer-form investigations and various reporting that I do not think would exist if I was a normal reporter in some of the newsrooms. … I may have a chaotic income schedule. However, I also get to work on the stories that are important and that I want to report on. I know that the majority of freelancers enjoy freelancing, but there are obvious persistent challenges that still exist.”288

179.A survey by the NCTJ found that 61 per cent of freelancers believed that they needed new or additional skills to be more efficient.289 Of these 87 per cent believed that they had faced barriers in obtaining relevant training, citing: excessive fees (59 per cent), loss of earnings while training (36 per cent), difficulty assessing the relevance or quality of courses (29 per cent) and a general lack of information about training (18 per cent).290

180.William Cook, a freelance journalist who has worked in the industry for 30 years, told us:

“there is more and more pressure on freelance journalists in particular to turn things around quickly and economically. There is more and more work out there and less and less money changing hands, and reporting is expensive.”291

181.We heard that there is often an imbalance of power between freelancers and publishers. Anna Codrea-Rado, a freelance journalist, argued:

“it really is a David and Goliath situation. There needs to be some cultural change, through which freelancers are treated with the respect that they deserve. They are the backbone of the UK press. They make up such a significant portion of the industry and yet they are treated like second-class workers.”292

182.Ms Codrea-Rado criticised the practice of paying freelancers when their work is published, rather than when it is completed, creating “a big cash-flow problem”:

“The way the news cycle works is you will write a fairly evergreen story and then a huge news event will come and it will push the story out by days, weeks or months, which is very commonplace. You cannot plan for your cash flow and you do not know when you are going to get paid. Depending on whether you are paid by the word or by the piece, you also in some cases do not even know the amount that you are going to get paid.”293

183.Ms Codrea-Rado argued that many publications do not abide by the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998, which gives freelancers the right to charge interest on late payments. She told us: “I issue late payment fees the day that a payment becomes late. I have never in my time been paid a late payment fee. I know that some people have, but it is quite rare for it to happen.”294

184.She explained that few freelancers want to go through the small claims court to seek what they are owed:

“it is quite bureaucratic and, to be honest, a lot of them do not even know how to do it. Also, for the amount of money it is going to cost you to go through the small claims court, it is not worth the time”.295

185.We heard concern about ‘kill fees’, the payment a publication makes to a freelancer for an article he or she has written but the publication has decided not to run. The Press Gazette reported that these fees could be as low as 30 per cent of the original fee.296 William Cook and the Society of Freelance Journalists felt that this was too low.297

186.Ms Codrea-Rado suggested: “extended powers need to be given to the Small Business Commissioner, because that is the office that regulates the late payment fees and the bad actors in this space who are paying late.”298 Francesca Marchese and Phil Sutcliffe, both freelance journalists, also argued for stronger powers, including increasing penalties for late payment and giving the Small Business Commissioner the power to check companies’ payment systems at any time.299

187.The Conservative Party manifesto for the December 2019 general election pledged to clamp down on late payment and strengthen the powers of the Small Business Commissioner.300 The Small Business Commissioner told us:

“The Government is completely focussed on fulfilling its manifesto commitment to clamp down on late payment and strengthen the powers of the Small Business Commissioner to support small businesses who are least able to cover financial shortfalls and find temporary finance more difficult and more expensive to obtain.”301

188.The Commissioner added that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy planned to consult on strengthening his powers and reforming the Prompt Payment Code, the responsibility for which was transferred to the Commissioner in March 2020. However, this consultation was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.302 It was launched in October 2020.303

189.Francesca Marchese and Phil Sutcliffe highlighted copyright and contract terms as additional areas in which public policy could redress the imbalance of power between freelancers and news organisations. They called for a change to copyright law to make freelancers’ copyright of their work inalienable, telling us that news organisations can pressure freelancers to assign their copyright to the organisation in perpetuity with no fee for future use. If copyright were inalienable, freelancers would be able to sell licences for reuse of their work.304

190.Ms Marchese and Mr Sutcliffe warned that the law allows news organisations to force freelancers to accept sole legal responsibility for their work and any costs which may arise from legal action following its publication. They explained:

“This is potentially ruinous to a sole-operator freelance journalist. Even limited individual insurance costs too much for the “normal” earner. And this practice breaks with long-standing tradition in the media industry that companies took responsibility in every sense for what they publish/broadcast—and profit from. That is, they covered freelance work in their company insurance. … A wearisome burden on independent journalism in the UK, warranty/indemnity clauses facilitate an ‘I’ll publish and you be damned’ approach from freelancers’ client companies.”305

191.Freelancers also face non-financial challenges. The NCTJ found that 63 per cent of freelancers would like more opportunities to network with other journalists.306

192.Anna Codrea-Rado told us that networking and training groups for freelancers were hard to find but stressed their importance:

“You are essentially forming the equivalent of what in an office would be your group of work friends. They are not just your colleagues but your work friends—the people to whom you turn to ask for advice when you are having a difficult situation with a boss. In a newsroom context, it is the person who you can turn to and say, ‘What is the word for that thing? I cannot think of the word’, and you are bouncing ideas off that person. It is that kind of level of collaboration and collegiate atmosphere.”307

193.She argued: “It is really important that we support the grassroot peer-to-peer organisations that are springing up off their own backs, through grants or some kind of support in that way.”308

194.William Cook agreed and added that more collaboration and information-sharing among freelancers could help to redress the imbalance of power between freelancers and news organisations. He suggested: “The big challenge here is one of restoring that sense of Fleet Street in our fragmented world. It would be great if there were more places where journalists could come together”.309

195.We are concerned by the challenges freelance journalists face in dealing with news organisations, in which there is usually a significant imbalance of power. We welcome the Government’s proposals to strengthen the powers of the Small Business Commissioner and encourage the Government and the Commissioner to work with freelance journalists to ensure that these new powers address the difficulties they face relating to unfair payment practices, including late payment, payment on publication and ‘kill fees’. The Government should consult on whether further legislation is needed to strengthen the rights of freelancers, including whether contract law should be amended to ensure that freelancers are not solely liable for legal costs arising from their work and whether copyright law should be reformed to make freelance–author copyright ownership inalienable.

194 Communications Committee, UK Advertising in a Digital Age (1st Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 116) and Communications and Digital Committee, Public Service Broadcasting: as Vital as Ever (1st Report, Session 2019, HL Paper 16)

195 Written evidence from Barnie Choudhury (FOJ0110)

198 Ibid.

199 Written evidence from Asif Sadiq (FOJ0087); Q 126

200 Supplementary written evidence from PressPad (FOJ0096); written evidence from Asif Sadiq (FOJ0087)

201 Sam Greenhill, ‘Broadcaster John Humphrys savages bias at the BBC as he accuses the ‘Kremlin’ style corporation of being out of touch’, Daily Mail (20 September 2019): [accessed 18 October 2020]

202 Roger Mosey, ‘Bowing to Twitter culture is bad news for the BBC’, The Sunday Times (19 July 2020): [accessed 18 October 2020]

204 ‘June Sarpong: TV presenter appointed BBC director of creative diversity’, BBC News (4 October 2019) [accessed 18 November 2020]

205 Rory Tingle, ‘BBC has failed to connect with white working class audiences and must do more to make them feel represented, says head of diversity June Sarpong’, Mail Online (6 October 2020) [accessed 18 November 2020]

206 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, ‘Government response to the Cairncross review: a sustainable future for journalism’ (27 January 2020): [accessed 18 November 2020]

207 Q 39 (Nic Newman); Q 79 (Will Harding); written evidence from the BBC (FOJ0077); written evidence from ITN (FOJ0076); Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, ‘Government response to the Cairncross review: a sustainable future for journalism’ (27 January 2020): [accessed 18 November 2020]; Q 29 (Will Gore)

208 National Council for the Training of Journalists, Journalists at Work (October 2018), p 23: [accessed 18 November 2020]

209 Communications Committee, Women in News and Current Affairs Broadcasting (2nd Report, Session 2014–15, HL Paper 91)

210 National Council for the Training of Journalists, Journalists at Work (October 2018), p 23: [accessed 18 November 2020]

211 National Council for the Training of Journalists, Diversity in Journalism (November 2017), p 19: [accessed 18 November 2020]

212 National Council for the Training of Journalists, Journalists at Work (October 2018), p 25: [accessed 18 November 2020]

213 National Council for the Training of Journalists, Diversity in Journalism (November 2017), p 19: [accessed 18 November 2020]

215 Supplementary written evidence from PressPad (FOJ0096); written evidence from Asif Sadiq MBE (FOJ0087)

216 Written evidence from Barnie Choudhury (FOJ0110)

217 Written evidence from Asif Sadiq (FOJ0087)

218 Written evidence from Barnie Choudhury (FOJ0110)

219 Communications Act 2003, section 27(6)

220 Oral evidence taken on 9 July 2019 (Session 2017–19), Q 209

222 Ofcom, Diversity and equal opportunities in television: monitoring report on the UK-based broadcasting industry (September 2019) p 4: [accessed 18 November 2020]

223 Ibid., pp 23–7

224 Communications and Digital Committee, Public Service Broadcasting: as Vital as Ever (1st Report, Session 2019, HL Paper 16) p 26

225 National Council for the Training of Journalists, Journalists at Work (October 2018), p 41: [accessed 18 November 2020]

226 The Sutton Trust, Internships—Unpaid, unadvertised, unfair (January 2018), p 1: [accessed 18 October 2020]

227 National Council for the Training of Journalists, Journalists at Work (October 2018), p 20: [accessed 18 November 2020]

229 Supplementary written evidence from PressPad (FOJ0096)

230 Written evidence from Asif Sadiq (FOJ0087)

231 Ibid.

232 Supplementary written evidence from PressPad (FOJ0096)

234 Fraser Nelson, ‘Internships at The Spectator for summer 2018; no CVs, please’, The Spectator (11 April 2018) [accessed 18 November 2020]

235 QQ 119–120

236 Supplementary written evidence from PressPad (FOJ0096)

237 Rebecca Wilson, ‘HR diversity consultancy welcomes ‘no CV’ recruitment initiative, Talint International (17 October 2016) [accessed 18 November 2020]

239 Neil Thurman, Alessio Cornia, and Jessica Kunert, (2016). ‘Journalists in the UK’, Oxford: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, p 10: [accessed 18 November 2020]

240 National Council for the Training of Journalists, Journalists at Work (October 2018) p 25: [accessed 18 November 2020]

241 Department for Education, Participation Rates in Higher Education: Academic Years 2006/2007–2017/2018 (Provisional) p 1: [accessed 18 October 2020]

242 Neil Thurman, Alessio Cornia, and Jessica Kunert, (2016). ‘Journalists in the UK’, Oxford: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, p 10: [accessed 18 November 2020]

243 National Council for the Training of Journalists, Journalists at Work (October 2018) p 25: [accessed 18 November 2020]

244 National Council for the Training of Journalists, Diversity in Journalism (November 2017) p 11: [accessed 18 November 2020]

245 Supplementary written evidence from PressPad (FOJ0096); Q 110 (Michelle Stanistreet)

246 Neil Thurman, Alessio Cornia, and Jessica Kunert (2016). ‘Journalists in the UK’, Oxford: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. p 10: [accessed 18 November 2020]

247 Department for Education, Widening Participation in Higher Education, England, 2017/18 age cohort—Official Statistics, p 4: [accessed 18 November 2020]

248 Department for Education, ‘Widening participation in higher education: Academic year 2018/19’, 30 July 2020: [accessed 18 November 2020]

250 Daniel Jackson, Einar Thorsen and Sally Reardon, ‘Fantasy, Pragmatism and Journalistic Socialisation: UK Journalism Students’ Aspirations and Motivations’, Journalism Practice (2020) p 107: [accessed 18 November 2020]

251 Higher Education Statistics Agency, ‘What do HE students study?’: [accessed 18 November 2020]

252 National Council for the Training of Journalists, Diversity in Journalism (November 2017) p 18: [accesssed 18 November 2020]

253 Daniel Jackson, Einar Thorsen and Sally Reardon, ‘Fantasy, Pragmatism and Journalistic Socialisation: UK Journalism Students’ Aspirations and Motivations’; Journalism Practice (2020) p 114: [accessed 18 November 2020]

259 Q 27 (Will Gore); written evidence from DMG Media (FOJ0033); supplementary written evidence from PressPad (FOJ0096); Q 79 (Will Harding); Q 81 (Jimmy Buckland); Q 182 (Anna Mallett); Q 110 (Michelle Stanistreet)

261 Written evidence from the National Council for the Training of Journalists (FOJ0020)

262 Q 27 (Will Gore)

263 HM Government, ‘Apprenticeships and traineeships: June 2020’: [accessed 18 November 2020]

264 WikiJob, ‘Journalism Apprenticeships’ (31 May 2020): [accessed 18 November 2020]

266 House of Lords Library, ‘Apprenticeship Levy and Workplace Opportunities for Young People Debate on 4 July 2019’, Library Note, LLN-2019–0085, 27 June 2019

267 CBI, Learning on the job: improving the apprenticeship levy, September 2019 p 15: [accessed 18 November 2020]

268 CBI, ‘Further reform urgently needed for effective apprenticeship levy’ (17 September 2019): [accessed 18 November 2020]

269 Communications Committee, Skills for Theatre: Developing the Pipeline of Talent (3rd Report, Session 2016–17, HL Paper 170), p 19

270 Communications Committee, UK Advertising in a Digital Age (1st Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 116), p 42

271 Communications and Digital Committee, Public service broadcasting: as vital as ever (1st Report, Session 2019, HL Paper 16), p 35

272 Intergenerational Fairness and Provision Committee, Tackling Intergenerational Fairness (Report of Session 2017–19, HL Paper 321), p 43

273 Artificial Intelligence Committee, AI in the UK: ready, willing and able? (Report of Session 2017–19, HL Paper 100), p 58

275 Written evidence from ITN (FOJ0076)

279 Economic Affairs Committee, Treating Students Fairly: The Economics of Post-School Education (2nd Report, Session 2017–19, HL Paper 139), pp 76–7

280 George Parker and Jonathan Moules, ‘Boris Johnson pledges apprenticeship to every young person’, Financial Times (3 June 2020): [accessed 18 November 2020]

281 Letter to the Chair from the Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, Prime Minister, 6 November 2020:

284 Q 191; supplementary written evidence from News UK (FOJ0106)

285 Office for National Statistics, ‘Annual Population Survey 2019: Occupation by sex, employment status and full/part-time’ (2020): [accessed 19 November 2020]

286 National Council for the Training of Journalists, Exploring Freelance Journalism (December 2016) p 4: [accessed 19 November 2020]

287 Written evidence from the Society of Freelance Journalists (FOJ0100)

289 National Council for the Training of Journalists, Exploring Freelance Journalism (December 2016) p 5: [accessed 19 November 2020]

290 Ibid., p 6

294 Ibid.

295 Ibid.

296 Eugene Costello, ‘How payment on publication is making life a misery for freelancers’, Press Gazette (29 March 2018): [accessed 19 November 2020]

297 Q 98; written evidence from the Society of Freelance Journalists (FOJ0100)

299 Written evidence from Francesca Marchese and Phil Sutcliffe (FOJ0099)

300 Conservative and Unionist Party, Manifesto 2019 (November 2019), p 32: [accessed 19 November 2020]

301 Written evidence from the Small Business Commissioner (FOJ0094)

302 Ibid.

303 HM Government, ‘Government to protect small businesses with action on late payments’ (1 October 2020) [accessed 2 November 2020]

304 Written evidence from Francesca Marchese and Phil Sutcliffe (FOJ0099)

305 Ibid.

306 National Council for the Training of Journalists, Exploring Freelance Journalism (December 2016) p 6: [accessed 19 November 2020]

308 Ibid.

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